Episode 113: Tom Pashby discusses quantum mechanics

Ever wonder what quantum mechanics is? You are not alone. This month, we talk to Tom Pashby (University of Chicago) about what makes quantum mechanics so hard to interpret, despite the fact that it makes incredibly accurate empirical predictions. Click here to listen.

Tom Pashby

Quantum mechanics is hard to interpret for a number of reasons, but very high on the list is the way it uses the notion of probability. In a more commonsense physical theory, we might say things like ‘there’s a 50% chance that the explosion collapsed the cave.’ Arguably, that’s just a way of saying ‘we aren’t more than 50% sure whether the explosion collapsed the cave–to be sure, we have to get up and go check.’ In quantum mechanics, the probabilities don’t describe what we know; they describe the physical system itself. So the ‘50%-ness’ can be part of the actual state of some configuration of tiny particles. What the what?!

In this episode, our guest runs through some of the ways that physicists and philosophers have tried to make sense of this theory. Despite how weird and counterintuitive it sounds, it is incredibly scientifically accurate. And, interestingly, it has also paved the way for new forms of computation that could very well radically transform all of our technology. So I guess it’s time for us to figure out what’s up! Join us as Tom Pashby helps us do just that.

Matt Teichman






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